2023 was a ‘record breaker’ for wind power in Ireland, but have we got the resources to reach the government's goals for a renewable future?

Today we learn about some of the engineering problems behind Ireland’s long-term strategy for increasing wind power, the challenges caused by policy, regulation and mother nature, along with a huge career drive to get more people, including engineers, working in the wind sector.

Our guest is extremely passionate about Ireland’s renewable energy potential. Also a chartered engineer, he uses his many years of experience fighting tirelessly to help us make the most of our natural resources and meet our sustainability targets for 2030. He is CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, Noel Cunniffe.

Listen below or on your podcast player:


  • How Ireland is leading the way and breaking records in wind energy generation
  • Innovative engineering work happening in Ireland’s renewable energy sector
  • Policy, planning permission, community engagement and other challenges facing the wind sector
  • Offshore wind and why it’s Ireland’s energy future
  • The Work In Wind recruitment drive and why engineers are needed

Noel Cunniffe is the CEO of Wind Energy Ireland which is Ireland’s largest renewable energy association and works with a wide range of stakeholders to build understanding and awareness of the benefits of wind and renewable energy. Prior to becoming CEO, Noel led Wind Energy Ireland’s Policy department in driving policy development across all aspects of the onshore and offshore renewable industry in Ireland.

Previously, Noel was the Renewable Integration Lead in EirGrid, the Transmission System Operator of Ireland, and worked across several departments including electricity grid planning and operation, and the design of the electricity market of Ireland. He is a Chartered Engineer with Engineer’s Ireland.


Engineers Journal AMPLIFIED is produced by DustPod.io for Engineers Ireland.


For your convenience, we include an automated AI transcription

Dusty Rhodes  00:00

Right now on AMPLIFIED, we're about to find out how Ireland is setting new records for wind power.

Noel Cunniffe  00:05

I know this is probably very bonkers to think about. But if we didn't have wind energy over the past two years, our electricity bills would have been much, much, much higher than they already were.

Dusty Rhodes  00:19

Hi there. My name is Dusty Rhodes and you're welcome to AMPLIFIED, the Engineers Journal podcast. 2023 was a record breaking year for wind power in Ireland and very shortly, you will be amazed to hear how much electricity we actually generate here from wind. Over the next half hour or so we're hoping to learn more about the engineering problems behind Ireland's long term strategy for increasing wind power. The challenges caused by policy, regulation and Mother Nature, along with a huge career drive to get more people including engineers working in the wind sector. Our guest is extremely passionate about Ireland's renewable energy potential. As a chartered engineer, he's been working in the area for a long time and fights tirelessly to help us make the most of our natural resources and meet our sustainability targets for 2030. I'm delighted to welcome to our AMPLIFIED podcast the CEO of Wind Energy Ireland. Noel Cunniffe, how are you Noel?

Noel Cunniffe  01:16

Very good Dusty, thank you very much for having me.

Dusty Rhodes  01:20

So listen, tell me about the wind power, because when I heard this fact, I was flabbergasted how much of our electricity is generated from wind? Yeah,

Noel Cunniffe  01:29

it's something that a lot of people in the country don't know is that we're actually a world leader when it comes to the amount of our electricity that comes from wind. So Ireland's story wind energy began back in the 90s, our very first onshore wind firm was built in 1992. So it's been operational for over 30 years now. And over that amount of time from the early 90s. Right up until 2023, we've built up more and more onshore wind, we've started with offshore wind with a bit more to go there would today. Or I should say maybe even last year in total over the course of the year, over 1/3 of Ireland's electricity came from winter. And as you can imagine, it's very weather dependent. So in some times of the year, like in December, which has just gone by over 50% of Ireland's electricity during the course of December came from wind. So during the Christmas period while everybody was cooking their turkeys, binging Netflix, you know, making ample amounts of tea and hot whiskies. One in two times when you are boiling a kettle turning on your TV using your internet, it was thanks to wind energy. How

Dusty Rhodes  02:33

are we generating so much? Because I would imagine if we're generating half of it that there should be massive propellers all over the country. I don't see that all over the country. How are we generating so much?

Noel Cunniffe  02:44

Yeah, well, last year was also a kind of quite a unique year, because for the very first time for a couple of times over the course of the year, all of Ireland's electricity at certain periods came from wind energy, mostly sunny evening and nighttime. So as I mentioned, like the very first wind farm was built in mail in 1992. And it was really in the kind of mid 2000s, to the teens that we started to accelerate wind energy. So particularly kind of 2015 to 2020. And we're continuing to do that. So today to kind of get into some of the figures, we have just under five gigawatts of wind energy installed on our grid. So to put that into context, the peak electricity demand that we have in Ireland, over the course of a year is about six, maybe about six and a half gigawatts. So we nearly have all of our electricity demand that could be met at peak by wind energy today. And our goal then for 2030 is to try and move that onshore wind target from nearly five gigawatts up to about nine gigawatts. And then for offshore wind energy, we're really at a standing start with one very small offshore wind farm off the coast of virtual. And we have to go from that standing start up to about five gigawatts by 2030. So we have a lot of work to do. But thankfully, we've one of the best industries here in the world to be able to deliver upon that we've got some brilliant engineers, brilliant planners, brilliant, brilliant economists, they're working tirelessly on this. And then investment is really there to try and drive it on and deliver that wind energy goal for Ireland.

Dusty Rhodes  04:17

With all of this going on, it has been such a success, then, tell me how does wind energy work from an engineering point of view out as a word? I mean, where do you set up the farms? How many do you need? How big are they give me some give me some of the practicalities? Yeah,

Noel Cunniffe  04:32

sure. So I think when the sector was initially starting off, you needed quite a few turbines to generate, you know, relatively speaking, not that much electricity. So the original wind farms in Ireland were predominantly based on the west coast. So we're talking Donegall Mayo Carey, where there would have been that very strong Atlantic wind coming in. Typically they would have been located on the site of mountains or Hilda to try and again be exposed capture as much of that wind energy as possible. So the turbines are obviously spinning, then when the wind is blowing, that's then converted into electricity on site. So each of the turbines would have a generator within them. And then that turbine is then connected into the electricity grid. So the grid is, is pretty much the transportation system for how electricity gets from where it's generated, be it in a wind farm, or a solar farm or a gas generator, to then our homes and our businesses and our towns and our cities. So every single electrical device that you have in your house, be at your leisure, or your cattle, your your laptop, that's actually connected to the electricity grid in a direct path, right away through to every single wind farm in our country. So that's how the electricity grid is the heartbeat of how we we power Ireland and how we generate it. And then it's really the wind energy that helps to provide as much of that power as possible from indigenous domestic sources, which is zero carbon emitting, and ideally, kind of keeping as much of that revenue and money that's being put into the wind energy and I and the guests coming out of it, then within Ireland, that's the advantage compared to perhaps where we would have historically produced our electricity by importing oil and gas, you know, not only is that emitting carbon emissions driving up our energy costs, because we're so reliant on it. But it is also then that money is leaving Ireland and exiting and then going off to those countries that are producing prostitutes.

Dusty Rhodes  06:33

Tell me more about the physical side of it. Because you said wind farms on the side of mountains now I can understand because you're attaching these these huge constructions to the land. But then you mentioned several in the Atlantic Ocean. How do you put these into the Atlantic Ocean? Yeah,

Noel Cunniffe  06:52

so for onshore wind, they kind of Yeah, it started on the hills. I think the technology is probably moved on so much now that the turbines are so efficient that you can kind of put them in places where you probably weren't thinking about previously, and that includes in the sea. Ireland was actually again, one of the world's first developers of offshore wind energy. It was the the late Grace Eddie O'Connor, who's recently pastor, his company, SSE Airtricity, in the early 2000s, decided to go out on a limb and really try and see could we do something with offshore wind energy, and they built the first offshore wind farm in Arklow. Bay in Wicklow. At the time, it was the largest offshore wind firm in the world. So there's two different types of offshore wind firms. There's fixed bottom offshore wind farms recalled and then there's floating offshore wind farms. So, the technology predominantly today, including that one in Arklow is fixed bottoms, where the turbines themselves are fixed to the floor of the seabed, be it through piles or through other types of almost lattice tower constructions. And they can be deployed in depths that are out to about maybe 6070 meters deep. So around Ireland or East Coast and are so cost when you get off the get into the sea Leto. Our depths tend to go out for about maybe 12 Miles 20 Miles at that depth of you know 50 To 60 meters, so you can deploy the fixed bottom technology there. Once you get out further into the say the outline of the Atlantic or off the south coast tends to get deeper faster. But we do have the continental shelf which is a real advantage for us when it comes to floating offshore wind energy. So floating offshore wind energy is a technology which anchors to the seafloor using an anchor that you might see in a ship, for example, to put it simplistically, and then the turbines are on the water and kind of floating along with the waves and you can deploy them to a greater depth.

Dusty Rhodes  08:46

So would it work something like an oil rig in the North Sea? Not

Noel Cunniffe  08:51

too dissimilar, exactly, very similar type of technology minority tend to be again, depending on where you are. Europe has the advantage of shallower waters for a much greater extent so they can play fixed bottom in areas that we couldn't floating offshore wind energy is a technology that there's a huge amount of research going into it at the moment. Some of the best researchers in Ireland actually in colleges right around our coastlines are working on floating offshore wind energy, I present, I think it's going to be a really big technology for Ireland's future, particularly when we get into that kind of second half of the 2030s 2040s 2050s. It will be our predominant offshore wind technology in that type of time prep. Now,

Dusty Rhodes  09:30

we're talking huge numbers about what it's able to generate as an overall percentage of our electricity usage. Do you think that Ireland could ever be 100% reliant on renewable energy and just not use oil? Who

Noel Cunniffe  09:43

100% Definitely no doubt about that it will happen. I think a lot of the decisions that are being made today from a policy perspective are going to decide when that happens. I get asked a lot. What happens when the wind doesn't blow. You know, where does our backup come from? And then the short term, the answer is going to be gas generation. That's that's the least polluting fossil fuel that we have. That's what we should be using, we should not be using oil, we should not be using coal, unless it's an absolute emergency. But in the longer term you with different portfolios of renewable technology, so the wind blows differently onshore than it is offshore, for example. So if it's not blowing onshore, it might be blown offshore, and vice versa. So you those can kind of balance each other. And then similarly, for solar generation, you know, it's most windy in Ireland in the winter, when it's we have storms in the evenings are long and nighter obviously longer as well. So we don't have that much solar generation. But then the times when maybe it isn't as windy in Ireland is the come summer periods for We've lots of sun. And that's where solar generation can really help balance wind. So if you can combine those two types of technologies, and then the key thing is how you can store that energy over time. So Ireland is brilliant when it comes to rolling out battery energy storage as well. Again, it's probably an unknown success story that we have here, where we can store wind and solar energy for periods of about maybe it's up to about maybe 30 minutes to two hours at the moment, that's where the technology is. But more and more of that technology is moving towards multi hour, overtime, multi day storage. So you can and we will get to a point in time where wind and solar energy when it's windy and Sunny will be powering our country. And when it's not, we'll be relying on stored energy from renewables to try and generate that electricity, be it through battery energy, storage hydrogen or some other format.

Dusty Rhodes  11:39

Why is it only 30 minutes to two hours, because I'm thinking in my head, a much bigger version of a rechargeable battery that I would have in my home, okay, so I can recharge that battery, and it goes to whatever 100% And then I can leave it sitting around on a shelf for a couple of weeks, and then put it into a radio or whatever it is that I'm going to be using on it and it works. Why can you not do that with super big batteries for wind energy? Yeah,

Noel Cunniffe  12:07

it's a really good question. I guess the simple answer is that the engineers that ruin our power system in air grid and an ESB networks, we've got, again, some of the best engineers in the world, we're operating an island electricity grid, with pockets of renewable energy, I can't tell you how unusual that is, for all the electricity grid nerds out there like myself, it's brilliant. But one of the big challenges with that tends to be trying to respond to short term problems. So for example, if you're running your electricity grid, you constantly need to have the the supply of electricity balanced with the demand for electricity, that so our safe power system works. There's constant supply balance. And if you have a power plant that we trip off, for example, all of us are aware that, you know, in certain circumstances, our electricity might trip and we'd go to the fuse board and we'd see switched out. Power plants operate in a very similar manner where you might have a gas generator trip off the grid, for example. And that power needs to be replaced very quickly. And that's where the batteries come in. So our engineers and our grid have incentivized the building of short duration batteries to try and solve that problem. Now, the longer term batteries that you're talking about the kind of multi hour multi day batteries, that problem is now starting to be realized as something that we need to tackle. And the technology is starting to come there. I would say, you know, if you were tried trying to do this 10 years ago, it would have been quite expensive. Whereas now the technology is coming there, there's multitudes of different types, be it through traditional battery be a true hydrogen be a true kind of using what's called flow batteries, which are using liquid to try and store energy. So that technology has come in and again, by the end of the decade, we're going to have a lot of it deployed right around Ireland to try and help balance that supply demand issue to make sure that we maximize renewable energy. Can

Dusty Rhodes  13:56

I ask you about the cost of it sounds amazing. All right, but I'm just thinking of my ESP bill. Okay. So, you know, traditionally is quite high with tradition, we've been quite reliant on oil and gas. I know that in countries where they have nuclear power, the electricity bills tend to be cheaper with these wind turbines. Are we going to see an improvement with our bills?

Noel Cunniffe  14:14

We already are? It's a quick answer. So like, I know, this is probably very bonkers to think about. But if we didn't have wind energy, over the past two years, our electricity bills would have been much, much, much higher than they they already were. So everyone around the country homes and businesses have experienced the pain of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine and what that then meant for energy security in Europe and energy supply in Europe and Ireland's price was really dictated because of our reliance on imported fossil fuels. If you can just look at the energy ecosystem as a whole not just electricity, but heat and transport as well. We still import about 85% of all of our fuel And then from oil and from gas. And those price spikes were extraordinary wind energy helped to push the most expensive oil and gas off the electricity grid, we produce a report every single month, which looks at the amount of wind which was generated in the month previous, but also looks at them the price of electricity on the wholesale market, on the days when we had the most wind and the days when we had the least amount of wind. And what you typically see is that on the days, when we we have wind energy available, the price tends to be you know, half of that of the day when we don't have wind energy available. So Wind energy has been protecting us to try and minimize the impact of our of our bills, clearly, more needs to be done. And the more that we can roll out renewable energy, not just wind solar as well, to try and push off that fossil fuels make us less reliant on imports, more reliant on our own domestic supply where we control the price, then we're in for a win. And that's what I think we should be striving for. As a country.

Dusty Rhodes  15:57

If someone is interested in getting these reports that you produce monthly, are they available online? Anywhere? Is it just an internal industry thing, no

Noel Cunniffe  16:05

wind energy ireland.com we produce the reports every month, typically, there's there's usually reports in media on them, as well. So I think it's something that more people have become aware of. It's something that we're constantly trying to do to try to, I guess, promote the industry, like one of our biggest challenges over the next 10 years or so is going to be trying to bring people into our sector to try and deliver the objectives that we have. When it comes to onshore wind and offshore winds and the electricity grid and rolling that out further, we simply don't have enough engineers, we don't have enough planners, we don't have enough energy economists in the sector at the moment to deliver the targets that we have in 2030 and beyond. So promoting what wind energy does on a monthly basis is part of almost our long term recruitment campaign to train in, bring people in, be it people looking for new careers, or students in primary secondary students and thinking about what a successful career might look like for them in the future. listening

Dusty Rhodes  17:03

to you talk about wind energy, it all sounds amazing. However, a lot of people object if they find out that a wind farm is going to be set up in their area, what are their concerns? Why do they not like this? Yeah,

Noel Cunniffe  17:18

so I think we as a sector have learned an enormous amount when it comes to community engagement over the past 1015 years, I think we could have done better with engaging with communities in probably, you know, the 2010s, of what we've taken on board, a lot of that feedback, and that opposition. And what we're seeing on doorsteps today is a much more understanding. And I think we've gotten better at engaging with communities identifying what their concerns are, and then adapting projects.

Dusty Rhodes  17:50

What are the concerns? What What are they saying to you on the doorstep.

Noel Cunniffe  17:53

So a lot of the times, it could be things like, you know, related to scenery, or the impact of perhaps tourism in an area or just a general uncertainty around perhaps the noise of wind energy. But there's lots of evidence to show that, you know, from a health point of view, there is no impact when it comes to having a wind farm near your house. When it comes to noise I the current kind of noise guidelines that are there for the industry, a winter by needs to be quieter than a refrigerator outside your home. And then when it comes to tourism, there is multiple reports showing that zero impact on tourism and in fact, many wind farms now they're becoming tourist amenities. Because I know myself, I'm based in the Midlands, I have multiple wind farms that are near me, which now have community walking tracks, which have, you know, activities for kids playgrounds in their locations. And we really encourage people to go and please go and visit a wind farm and go and experience it and see it for yourself. Many of them are open right around the country. And when you take that kind of general sentiment towards wind energy, I think as we look at particularly what we've been through in the last two years, with the energy price crisis that we've seen, more and more people recognize that the solution to high energy prices, the solution to energy security and the solution to decarbonisation is domestically produced renewable energy and for Ireland, our best answer for that is wind energy. So we carry out a an independent polling of people around Ireland every single year to try and understand what their concerns are and what they perceive as the benefits of wind energy. This year, about four and five people are in favor of wind energy, and about one in 20 are opposed to it. So if you try to find anything in Ireland, where one in 20 people will not oppose something I would really like to see that. So I think those figures Yeah, it is rare, but those figures have kind of increased over time and gotten stronger and stronger as people I've seen the benefits of wind energy, and more people are probably experienced when firms in their area and the benefits that they can bring.

Dusty Rhodes  19:56

Is there anything in it for people who are living near wind farms and mean, is there a financial incentive? Or do they get free electricity or anything like that?

Noel Cunniffe  20:03

Yeah, like many, many companies are offering different things, there's a couple of things that are kind of mandatory called near neighbor payments. So there will be things that if you're located near a wind farm, there will be a payment associated with that. There's also a really good scheme that has been brought in by the government in the past few years called community benefit funds, where if you are a community near a wind farm, then there will be a fund created for you every single year. And then it's up to that community to decide how that money is spent. So, for example, in I think it was 2020, to about 4 million euro went into community benefit funds around Ireland, and that helped to pay for things like investment in GA investment in nursing homes, on top of all of that as well, again, something that a lot of people wouldn't be aware of is that all of these wind farms that we have in Ireland are paying annual rates to county councils. So there's many counties around Ireland that have 10 to 20% of their entire income for the year coming from wind farms and their location. So that's helping to pay for, for schools, for libraries for roads in all of these counties around Ireland. So again, there's a lot of hidden benefits there that people are not seeing. But it shows the overall economic benefit to Ireland, of producing our own energy if we can.

Dusty Rhodes  21:22

Let's talk more about the engineering side of things. What factors do you have to consider when you are looking for somewhere to build a wind farm? What are the kinds of things that goes through the head? Really,

Noel Cunniffe  21:35

really good question. So I would say originally, when wind farms were being looked at, it was all about where's the windiest areas and where's the, you know, the best wind speed and that's what led a lot of wind farms originally to be generated or created on the West Coast and on mountainous regions. More and more, though, because of the advancements in the turbine technology. Ireland is just so windy everywhere compared to other countries, you can kind of you could legitimately put a turbine anywhere, if you were only looking at wind speed. So I don't think that that's as big a criteria now as it used to be. So things that are important are things like the most important one currently is actually access to the electricity grid. So where is our electricity grid strong enough that you can connect a wind farm into it, and then your power can be sent out anywhere in the country. So more and more projects are looking at the future of our electricity grid, where projects are going to be to try and expand capacity there. And then they're trying to locate wind farms in those regions. So that's run onto it. For offshore wind, a lot of those decisions are now being made by the government. So we have what's we're moving towards what's called a plan lead system for offshore wind energy, where the government will engage in multiple consultation processes to do a lot of environmental screening assessments, and then identify areas of the costs these costs. So cost the west coast of Ireland for offshore wind energy to be developed. And then developers will participate in in competitive processes, be it through an auction system or something equivalent to then be selected as the company to build the wind firm in that government selected reach.

Dusty Rhodes  23:20

No, let me ask you in particular about offshore wind, you kind of believe that this is the big growth area or this is the answer why

Noel Cunniffe  23:30

100% This is Ireland's energy future. As I mentioned, we've only one small offshore wind farm in Ireland. At present, we're trying to develop about seven to 10 offshore wind farms in the next 10 years. So we have a lot of work to do there. A lot of people again, wouldn't realize this. But if you look at the total economic area that Ireland has available to it, we have a C area that seven times our land mass in our control. So Ireland is one of the largest countries in Europe when you take that into account, but seven, eight of us are underwater. And that creates a lot of challenges, but a lot of opportunities. And if you combine that large sea area with one of the windiest countries on the planet, are a capability for offshore wind energy is just incredible. Be that through supplying our own domestic energy supply, which is the the I guess the the first goal of that in the next 1015 years or so. But then by 2050, we are going to be a battery for Europe. We're going to be supplying electricity, not just for Ireland, we're going to be exporting that into Europe. We're going to be utilizing that clean energy to create new products, new manufacturing bases, right around the coastlines of Ireland. Now you can really see this being something that a lot of people are getting very excited about in the areas like Rosslare and cork in Wexford in Limerick Galway. There's a lot of investment going into our ports. There's a lot of investment going into our education ecosystems in those areas to try and make sure that we have the people ready to capitalize on the is and what it will mean for Ireland in the next 2030 years. It's a massive economic opportunity.

Dusty Rhodes  25:05

Another thing that we have to worry about when you're looking at our location is of course planning permissions, the bane of everybody's life. There's delays, I'm sure in the in the sector, how's that? How's it affecting your goals?

Noel Cunniffe  25:20

So the planning system is definitely the biggest challenge, I would say that our industry is facing at the moment, it tends to be with projects that apply for planning permission, it's the uncertainty of when those projects are going to come out on the other side, which is the biggest challenge, if you apply for planning permission today to be on board Panola. For example, there is a statutory guideline timeline in there of about 18 weeks that a project should be decided upon. But on average, it's more like 90 weeks when a project gets decided upon. So it's a significant time increase. What I think Ireland needs when it comes to unlocking energy independence and delivering more renewable energy is investment in our planning system, not in people and in resources and in skill sets. And it's not just in the likes of and more Panola, or local authorities than their planning departments. It's in the National Parks and Wildlife Service. It's in the environmental NGOs to help to decide how projects determine how plan permissions are determined for projects. I think when a lot of people hear me speaking about the planning system, they automatically think, Oh, they're just asking for a simpler, right through the planning system. That is absolutely not the case, the planning system gets decisions through it just gets them through at a really slow pace compared to what we need to be doing to be able to deliver upon our targets. So the more people that are in there that can help make decisions faster, be it positive or negative for one firm, the better. And I think it extends out just to the to the wind energy sector, like I think, like one big important thing for Ireland, they'd probably be like number two on the list of the challenges that need to be overcome is our electricity grid down investment there. So air grid and ESB networks have brilliant plans really good plans to try and upgrade Ireland's electricity system for 2014 for 2030 for 2014. But they're going to be running into this roadblock now very soon. So yeah, unlocking that planning system through more people, and through more effective policies to enable renewable energy I think is going to be important.

Dusty Rhodes  27:24

I was actually just about to ask you about the infrastructure. Because of so much energy has been generated by wind and has been put into our grid as it is it sounds like we could lead to overload. So what is it that they need to do to improve our grid?

Noel Cunniffe  27:36

So grid is is I think, traditionally been something that Ireland hasn't done great at in terms of accepting as a con as a country. Ireland's electricity grid began again, probably in the 1920s going up to the 1950s, huge investment in the 1980s in our grid and an early 1990s. And we had almost an overbilled of grid in the 1980s and 1990s. And that gave us headroom. And we've used all of that headroom over the last 20 years through our country growing our economic economy expanding through the rollout of renewable energy. We're really at the point now where we as a country need to get in, jump in and invest in grid again. And that means building overhead lines, underground cables, new substations, it is the the heartbeat of a thriving economy, and decarbonisation and ensuring that our lights stay on. So we need a grid. It's not just the planning system, that's going to be an issue there. I think it's political support. When you look back at plans that, you know, tried to build our electricity grid in the late 2000s. In in the teens, they really failed because of a lack of political support for projects progressing into the planning system and through a planning system. So we actually helped to establish a campaign last year which engineers Ireland are also involved in, and it's called build our grid. And it's trying to build awareness for the benefits of having a strong electricity grid and what that means for economy for decarbonisation for our security of supply. And the more people that recognize that we do need to invest in our grid, the better.

Dusty Rhodes  29:12

Can you give me some examples of specific physical infrastructure that we're going to need.

Noel Cunniffe  29:17

So apart from the turbines and the panels, I think you're talking about it is really getting into that overhead power lights, it is really getting inside all underground cables and a new electricity. This electricity substations, battery energy projects, also going to be really important. They tend to be shipping containers is almost what they look like. So they're, they're in an enormous footprint. One of the most interesting infrastructure projects that we're going to need as well, when you start to look outside of Ireland is our ability to connect to other electricity grids. So Ireland is currently what's called interconnected to Britain. We have one line joining just north Dublin into England. And then we have another one connecting Northern Ireland, Scotland, we're going to be recurrently, building two more represent another one connecting into Britain, our Connecting another one into France in 2027. These are huge infrastructure projects, multi billion euro projects. And they need to be delivered again by about 2030. So I think it's a bit of everything, there is huge amount of private and public investment that is going into this to huge transformation for what we need to see in our electricity system. But I guess the benefit of all of this is that we're going to have a clean source power, because the best way to decarbonize the heat and transport sectors is to put a plug on things, the more you can put a plug on all aspects of your life for your business, then the lower carbon is going to be so that means to plug in our transport, which electric vehicle electric bus, put a plug on your heating with a heat pump. And that way Ireland can decarbonize not just electricity sector, but also the heat transport sectors too, which is a big challenge.

Dusty Rhodes  31:01

And let me ask once again, about here in Ireland, when there is no wind in the summer, or solar when there is no sun ever. There's a word for that. When we don't have wind or sun, what is the word?

Noel Cunniffe  31:13

It's a German word. It's called dunkel floater. Where does that come from? Great question. I don't know the answer to that one. But, but it is it is often raised. So the idea behind it is it's a calm, cooled period where there isn't wind, and it's very cloudy, so there isn't much sun. And these types of periods can sometimes last for multiple days. And that's the real goal for people working in the you know, particularly the research side of the renewable energy sector, how can we power our grids or homes or businesses shoring those times using renewable energy, when we might not when we we won't have wind or we won't have solar available. So I think in the short term, it's going to be doing as much as we can with things like batteries, but then needing to rely on gas generation. And that's probably going to be the case for the next 10 years or so, in the longer term. The kind of the Great White hope, let's say for the power sector is is in hydrogen, and in what's called E fuels, so electric fuels. So hydrogen is quite interesting. You can use renewable energy to separate water h2o into its components h2, hydrogen and oxygen. And then you can use that hydrogen gas in the same way that you would current gas that we have in positive gas on our on our grid, so you can burn it in power plants, you can burn it in various devices, and the only output of that is not carbon emissions, it's its water. So that's what the kind of the goal is in the long term to move to that. Now that technology is a bit off. It's certainly not something that we're going to be deploying at a wide scale in the 2030 tight timeframe. But it is something that we should be looking into as a country and we are looking into we do have a hydrogen strategy. And you can then use that hydrogen to create other types of fields, be it ammonia, or different types of fertilizers that could be used again in other industries or tell power, for example, like sustainable aviation fuels to help decarbonize our aircraft sector, or even ammonia is being used and chipping at the moment too. So again, lots of progress to be seen there in the next few years. I'm sure.

Dusty Rhodes  33:26

Renewable energy is a huge growth area in Ireland from everything that you were saying. A lot of jobs, which, you know, is no surprise, where are the engineering jobs.

Noel Cunniffe  33:39

The engineering jobs are really interesting. So my background is civil engineer, but I transitioned into electrical engineering. And I would say you can find an engineering job anywhere in the renewable energy industry, be that civil engineering, where if you're looking to construct, say, a wind turbine, or a wind farm, and electricity grid corridor, and electricity substation, we are excellent in Ireland, when it comes to electrical design, we've got some of the best companies in the world that we're exporting abroad here. When it comes to electrical design. If you are a mechanical engineer, there's lots of really interesting problems and challenges that we're trying to solve with maximizing wind energy, solar energy, looking at things like how we deploy offshore wind energy off the coast of Ireland, and in floating wind in particular is a technology that we really need to get to grips with what a lot of the research centers are looking at at the moment. And then electrical engineers, again, we have some of the best electrical engineers in the world work on our power system in our grid, Denise networks in companies right around Ireland. So I couldn't recommend a career in this sector more to anyone that would like to get into it to help kind of promote the sector. We actually launched an initiative in October last year. It's called work in wins daata eak. And it's really geared towards people that want to perhaps try a career in the renewable energy sector or to second level students who might be filling out their SEO application forms in the coming weeks and thinking, how am I? What's my career going to be? So on that website, you can actually take a short quiz. And you can say, are you more analytical? Are you more into history? Are you more into English? Do you like working outside? Do you like working inside you like working with people? Do you like working by yourself. And then depending on what the quiz results come up with, it'll give you a selection of jobs that are available in the industry, and a number of college courses that are available right around Ireland to help you get into those careers. So it's something that we're going to be given a quite a big push on over the coming weeks. And hopefully, it'll attract people into our sector, because we need people. It's definitely the top of the risk register for a lot of companies in our sector. How do we get the right people in?

Dusty Rhodes  35:48

Give me the URL for that website again?

Noel Cunniffe  35:52

Yeah, so it's working wind.ie? Please do check it out, and promote it to anyone that you know that's in school or thinking about applying for jobs in the near future. There's loads of information on that website.

Dusty Rhodes  36:05

workinwind.ie, a very easy one to remember. I like it. Noel, I have to say, it's been a fascinating conversation with you today, because I've seen wind farms around and had a passing kind of wonder, you've just filled in so much. And it sounds amazing. And I'm just astounded at what we are producing at the moment through wind, and I suppose also solar and then also what the plans are for the next. I was about to say 10 years, but I'm mean 2030 is not that long away. It's only six years away. So I mean, it's very much happening and growing fast. And I'll tell you, that website is definitely going to be one that I'll be checking out workinwind.ie. Of course, if you'd like to find out more about Noel and some of the topics that we spoke about today, you'll find notes about what we were chatting about and other link details including contacts for note in the description area of this podcast. But for now, Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland. Thank you for joining us.


Thank you very much.

Dusty Rhodes  37:02

If you enjoyed our podcast today, do share it with a friend in the business just tell them to search for Engineers Ireland in their podcast player. The podcast is produced by dustpod.io for Engineers Ireland, for advanced episodes, more information on engineering across Ireland or career development opportunities, there are libraries of information on the website at engineersireland.ie Until next time from myself, Dusty Rhodes, thank you for listening